Reading the Alex Winners

Because of my job as a collection development librarian for Mackin, I don’t have much time to read adult books—and so I don’t usually even try to predict the Alex winners. Most years I might recognize only one or two of them. This year, however, I had not only read one of them already, but I had four others on my TBR list!

I’ve taken some time this February to read a few of the winners; I enjoyed them all and agree that they are great recommendations for older teens.



Confessions by Kanae Minato. 9780316201148. 2014. Gr 11-Adult.

On the day she retires, a teacher tells her class of 13-year-olds the story of the death of her preschool daughter, who had drowned in a pool. The police have classified it as an accident, but the teacher knows it was a murder…and she knows that the two responsible are in her own class. She assures them that she will not go to the police, because she wants her own revenge—and she confesses what she has done.  From here, the story is told by several other narrators who have their own confessions to make, finally returning to the teacher who has one last admission before declaring that her revenge is over.

In addition to being a great story, this book would be a great conversation starter about morality, revenge, and punishment.

Everything I Never Told You


Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. 9781594205712. 2014. Gr 11-Adult.

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”  A Chinese-American family in 1977 is about to find out that 16-year-old Lydia is dead, drowned in the nearby lake. Her death is ruled a suicide by the police, but the family members can’t believe it.  Going all the way back to the childhood desires of both her mother and her father, this beautiful novel explains everything that led up to and contributed to Lydia’s death. The author reveals that the importance lies not on what each family member said, but on “everything I never told you.”  In a compelling and heartfelt—but never preachy—story, she shows how important the lack of communication was to this family.

Lock In


Lock In by John Scalzi. 9780765375865. 2014. Gr 11-Adult.

In the fairly near future, a disease has swept across the world, leaving many of the survivors in a locked-in state, aware of everything around them but unable to move or talk. Because the president’s wife was left in this condition, much money went into research to help these victims. Since then many of them have had neural networks installed in their brains that allow them to borrow the bodies of human “Integrators” for a time.

Rookie FBI agent Chris Shane and his partner Leslie Vann investigate a murder that is complicated by the fact that the killer is an Integrator, and contrary to past experiences, he doesn’t remember what happened. And that means the real criminal is locked in—and he didn’t just borrow a body, but took it over completely. This case will take the agents further into the business world of technology and into a whole new culture.



The Martian by Andy Weir. 9780804139021. 2014. Gr 10-Adult.

A space crew has been on Mars for only a few days when a huge storm forces them to leave. But as they race to their ship, Mark, one of the astronauts, is knocked down and left for dead, and the rest of the crew begins their return flight to Earth.  However, Mark isn’t dead, and when he awakes to realize that he is all alone on the planet, he also understands that he doesn’t have much hope of survival. What he does have, though, is a scientist’s knowledge, a handyman’s ingenuity, and a great sense of humor—and that last quality may be his most important.  Oh, and he also has a few potatoes.

This page-turner will be especially of interest to people who like math and science.  Now I ‘m not much of a math person, but even though I couldn’t often follow the math explanations, I was able to scan the technical parts enough to know what was going on. It is a great story of determination—not only from Mark, but also from Mission Control on Earth and from Mark’s crew mates as they defy orders to try to save Mark before all his options run out.

Terrorist's Son


The Terrorist’s Son : A Story of Choice by Zak Ebrahim. 9781476784809. 2014. Gr 11-Adult.

Terrorism often runs in families, since the children of these radicals are raised on bigotry, hatred, and violence. In his memoir, however, Zak Ebrahim shows that this does not have to be true. His first memories of his father were good ones of a man who loved his family and had high hopes for their future. A series of misfortunes, however, took away that hope and left nothing but anger and vengeance. Zak’s father is El-Sayyid Nosair, who was convicted and imprisoned for his part in the murder of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the leader of the Jewish Defense League. While in prison, he was one of the masterminds of the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.

In this memoir, Zak proves by his own life that turning to hatred is not a foregone conclusion for those raised in a violent, fundamentalist environment. Nor is it the only reaction to bullying and intimidation, which he experienced not only by people who found out who his father was, but also by his cruel classmates. In fact, he argues with his champions Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., that nonviolence is the only way to solve our problems.



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